Whether two pieces or three pieces, a suit is one garment and every piece of it must fit together. A suit should be tailored and styled to look unified and flow from one piece to the next. The current trends in “slim” or “skinny” suits have forgotten this important principle.
In a single-breasted suit, the jacket’s waist button—the middle button on a button three jacket, the top button on a button two jacket or the only button on a button one jacket—and the trousers’ waist are closely related and need to work together in harmony. They commonly do not work together on suits today due to a button stance that is too high and a trousers rise that is too low. The waist button on a single-breasted jacket—the button that fastens—needs to be placed close to where the waist of the trousers is. When the jacket is fastened, the only thing that shows below the jacket’s fastened button should be the trousers. No amount of shirt, tie or waistcoat should be seen below jacket’s fastened button. Anything otherwise looks sloppy. There should be no “triangle” to disrupt the suit’s unity. Cutting a jacket with closed quarters to make up for this common problem today often has the adverse effect of making the torso look bottom heavy, but in some situations they can work very well. Fastening the jacket’s bottom button to hide the “triangle” usually distorts the lines of the jacket because the standard single-breasted jacket isn’t cut to allow for the bottom button to fasten. This issue is unique to single-breasted suits and is not a problem on double-breasted suits because double-breasted suits are closed in the lower foreparts.
Sean Connery’s tailor Anthony Sinclair recognised the relationship between the button stance of the jackets and the rise of the trousers. Of all of Sean Connery’s suits in the James Bond films, his suits in Dr. No have both the highest button stance and the highest trouser rise. When Sinclair moved the button stance down a little for the suits in From Russia with Love and subsequent films, he also pushed down the trouser rise the same amount so the relationship between the jacket and trousers stayed the same.
Another disconnect occurs when there is not enough overlap of the jacket over the trousers. This problem is all too common with the current trend of cutting the suit jacket too short and the trouser rise too short. Fashionably cut suits today have anywhere from three to six inches less overlap of the jacket and trousers than would be found traditionally, and the traditional overlap is necessary to unify a suit. When this problem occurs, the “triangle” mentioned above is almost always present as well.
A waistcoat (or cummerbund in the case of black tie) can help unify a suit where the jacket and trousers don’t work well together, but it’s only a bandage. A suit must look like a unified garment without a waistcoat or cummerbund. In suits that only use the waistcoat as a unifying element, the waistcoat is usually too long and makes the torso look out of proportion with the rest of the body. A waistcoat that is too long won’t be able to follow the shape of the body properly either.
The biggest problem with the jacket and trousers not working together in suits today is because suit makers have been cutting their suit trousers like the casual trousers that men are more used to wearing today. Over the past decade and a half, the rise on men’s casual trousers has become lower and lower, moving from up on the waist to down on the hips. It didn’t take long for suit trousers to follow this. Many men today like a low rise in all of their trousers not only because they are used to it but also because they don’t want to look like their father, their grandfather or a nerd. But when one wears a suit and keeps his jacket on like a grown man should, trousers with a proper rise will never look too high. Nobody will see the top of the trousers because they will blend into the suit jacket.
Another reason why men today don’t want to wear trousers with a higher rise is because they believe that a higher rise necessitates a full cut and pleats (folds in the cloth), and they don’t want to wear pleats. But if one looks at the high rise trousers that men wore in the first couple decades of the 20th century or in the 1970s, mens trousers were worn high on the waist without pleats and had a very trim fit in the hips and thighs, as well as in the calves for early 20th century trousers. For men with small hips and a small seat, a flat front with one dart—a fold sewn into a garment that provides shape—on each side of the rear is all that is needed to fit the trousers out from the waist and over the hips. For most men, adding a second dart on each side of the rear helps fit flat front trousers over the hips comfortably without pleats. That second dart can instead be placed on the front for a better fit on some body types. And though currently unfashionable, pleats are not the devil, and their presence does not mean that the trousers must be baggy. Just look at Sean Connery’s trim-fitting forward-pleat suit trousers for a sleek example. Trousers can have today’s popular trim fit and still have a traditional rise that works best with a suit.
The rise isn’t the only element of the suit trousers that needs to work in harmony with the suit trousers. The fullness of the suit trousers also needs to complement the fullness of the jackets. Daniel Craig’s tight suit trousers in Skyfall and Spectre match the tight jackets. Sean Connery’s gently shaped suit jackets are in harmony with his tapered trousers, which are full at the thigh but narrow at the hem. Timothy Dalton’s baggy suit jackets in Licence to Kill are complemented by baggy triple-pleat suit trousers. These are just a few examples to illustrate the point.
If a full-cut suit jacket is paired with trousers that don’t fill out the bottom of the jacket or have too much taper, the man wearing this suit will look top-heavy. Likewise, if a close-fitting jacket is paired with full-cut trousers, the man wearing such a suit will look bottom heavy or weak. For unbalanced body types, a man may need more fullness in either the jacket or the trousers for better harmony between the pieces of his suit.
Most of James Bond’s suits follow the principles of pieces working together. Due to a low trouser rise, Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre face some of the problems mentioned in this article. Thankfully the problems aren’t as extreme as what many people wear today. The princples in this article apply not only to suits but also to odd jackets and trousers. It’s not only suits that should look unified.